Some local coaches and administrators expressed sadness and some were disappointed. However, others were happy with the vote to stick by an expanded nonselect/select playoff split first approved in January.
“I’m disappointed because I think we should all be together,” The Dunham School football coach Neil Weiner said. “But obviously, the majority of our association doesn’t feel that way.”
A total of 56.5 percent of the 306 voters opted to go with the “none of these” option, rejecting four other possible plans during the special meeting held at the Crowne Plaza.
The original plan from Many Principal Norman Booker calls for 12 championships each for boys/girls basketball, baseball and softball in 2016-17 to go along with the nine football championships approved in 2013.
Several local principals and coaches were more dissatisfied with the meeting’s result than the fact that it was at times contentious.
Doyle High Principal Tommy Hodges provided one of the tense moments when he told the group that the executive committee did not ask for a special meeting, but were charged to vote on it by LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic during an April meeting.
Hodges restated that his issues with select schools, the group dominated by private schools, goes beyond on-field competition. He said he supports the split because select (private) schools can control their enrollment/classification and nonselect/public schools cannot. He also pointed to a lack of standardized testing for private schools.
“That potentially could be something that an athlete sees that (lack of testing) and decides, ‘Hey, I’m going to that school.’ I’m not saying that happens; I’m not saying it doesn’t,” Hodges said. “But that’s another thing they have to offer that the public schools do not have any control over.”
McKinley High Principal Herman Brister Jr., who said he voted for the first alternative, also opposed the split. The first proposal from Mandeville High Principal Bruce Bundy called for reunification in all sports and that the enrollment of select schools be multiplied by 1.5 to determine classification, drawing a vote from Brister because it adhered to “the more traditional form.”
The vote will more than likely result in the formation of a second organization “that accommodates the needs of private schools and private school families,” Weiner said. But though talk of a second association like the sports cooperative discussed immediately came to mind, Parkview Baptist Athletic Director Kenny Guillot said he is unsure how sustainable a two-association system would be.
“When you go up above Alexandria, I think you have about only seven or eight private schools. You don’t have many,” he said. “You have magnet schools and all that, but when you look at it, I don’t know if we can support that organization.”
Guillot, who coached football at Parkview for 15 years, wouldn’t speculate about what effects the split might have on Baton Rouge-area schools. He said changes probably won’t be apparent until districts are reclassified for the 2017-18 school year.
Other opponents of the split, like Central High Principal David Prescott, often cite an oversaturated playoff field that has welcomed teams with poor, and even winless, records.
“I don’t know if an 0-10 team might not be better than a 4-6 team in a different area,” Prescott said. “There’s a lot to go into it, but that’s the major drawback I see: so many teams in the playoffs with records that hadn’t earned the right to be there.”
Guillot decried the split for what he deemed a blow to competition. Both he and Brister described themselves as “old-school” proponents of the system before the first split in 2013.
No matter which perspective coaches and administrators subscribed to, one thing was clear — the LHSAA is divided, perhaps now more than ever.
“I didn’t think anything was really accomplished,” Guillot said of the special meeting. “It might have just split us more and more.”